Trampling the Poor: A Lenten Reflection for Ash Wednesday

Trampling the Poor: A Lenten Reflection for Ash Wednesday February 21, 2012

Throughout Lent, I will be posting short meditations on the Daily Office readings every day. Read Thursday’s reflection here. Please journey and pray with me through these readings. Wednesday, February 22
Amos 5:6-15
“… you trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain … and push aside the needy at the gate.”

The prophet Amos levels a harsh critique against the nation of Israel. The country had become enamored with its own success. The wealthy rulers and landowners of the day no longer cared for those less fortunate, as God had commanded. Instead, they trampled them, stole food from their mouths and pushed the needy begging at the gates of the holy city of Jerusalem.

When wild animals trample, there is little rationality for it. The animals get caught up in the herd instinct, running only where the legs in front of them are running. Everything in the way is crushed, but it is not with malice. Rather it is carelessness and comfort in the safety of the herd.

How many times, I wonder, have I hurried off with the herd, in fear, in irrationality or just on impulse, and inadvertently trampled the poor and the needy? More times than I care to imagine.

How many times have I eaten more meat in a week than a person in an impoverished country will eat in a year? More times than I care to imagine.

How many times have I shopped a sale for inexpensive jeans, ignoring the thread of sweatshop labor, the stitches of slavery, sown into their hems? More times than I care to imagine.

How many times have I rushed home to my family only to turn on the television and ignore them? More times than I care to imagine.

How many times have I been so concerned with international injustices, humanitarian crises and systems of vast inequality but rushed through a conversation with a lonely neighbor for no other reason than my own impatience? More times than I care to remember.

When we trample the needy, more than likely we barely recognize it. We are too focused on the next task, the next appointment, on trying to catch up with the two legs running a six inches in front of us. It’s not malicious. It’s worse. It isn’t even on our radar.

Perhaps this Lent, we might begin to imagine all the ways we trample the poor and do our best to stop running in the brutalizing comfort of the herd.


O God, we pray with ashes filling our hearts today for the overflowing sorrow of the world, a deafening sound we cannot, or chose not, to hear. Bend our ears to the cries of our neighbors, the ones living down the street and the ones living continents away. Strengthen our feet to move in the direction of justice, compassion and equality, even if it is a stumble. Quicken our hearts and quicken our pace that we may love others, and thus, love you.

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  • thank you. I needed to hear that and I will take it to heart!